BY Ambrose Gahene
Uganda last week joined the rest of the world to commemorate the International Day of Education. Celebrations were organized by Youth Coalition members for Sustainable Development Goals, geared by James Brian Ntwatwa the President of Incredible Youth International at the Headquarters in Kebembe village in Mukono district.
United Nations Resident Coordinator and designated coordinator for Security in Uganda Ms Rosa Malango was the Chief Guest on the occasion attended by several UN officials and Korean philanthropists.
The celebrations began with a panel discussion by some members of Youth Coalition for SDGs on education led by Robert Kigongo, under a theme “RECOVER AND REVITALIZE EDUCATION FOR THE COVID-19 GENERATION – THE ROLE OF THE UN IN PROMOTING TRANSFORMATIVE EDUCATION”
In her remarks H.E. Rosa Malango lauded the the CEO & President of Incredible Youth International, Representatives from the Government – SDG Secretariat, Representatives from Civil Society, UN Colleagues, Members of the Youth Coalition for SDGs, Youth from the Community and the Media for participating in this year’s celebrations.
Malango said the theme “Recover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation” is timely and that the Youth Coalition for SDGs has come a long way since it was formed during preparations for the UN and SDGs Awareness Month in October 2019 by bringing together youth organizations actively involved in contributing to achieving the SDGs under the auspices of the National SDG Secretariat within the Office of the Prime Minister and supported by the UN system. Since then, representatives from the Coalition, self-made leaders from across the nation, have been involved in key activities including preparations for the UN Emergency Appeal for COVID-19 and its impacts in April 2020, the II National Voluntary Report on Progress towards the achievement of the SDGs submitted to the UN General Assembly in July 2020 and the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) for 2021 – 2025 launched last year.
“As we commemorate International Education Day, we recognize that COVID-19 has created a child rights crisis. According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries across the world. Since the closure of schools in Uganda on 20th March 2020 about 20 million learners in pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary institutions have been out of school 10 months affecting their quality of life and their future.” She said.
Malango added that COVID-19 has intensified disparities by reducing opportunities for the most vulnerable including learners with disabilities, girls, and learners in rural or urban poor communities, refugees and displaced persons. Like in other sectors, COVID-19 has stimulated innovation thanks to concerted efforts of government, development partners, teachers, parents and learners. It has demonstrated the shared commitment to sustain safe spaces for children and youth where they can learn skills, values and substance at community levels which I witnessed during my field visits.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a once in a generation opportunity to reimagine education and empower a new generation. The pace of change is accelerating, with innovations introduced at an unprecedented rate and scale. Uganda, the world’s second youngest nation, must maintain an enabling environment for this much needed generation of digital entrepreneurs, leaders and social innovators. If Uganda is to achieve its national vision and the SDGs it must find ways to invest concurrently in green industrialization and the knowledge economy.” Malango added.
She also noted that the great strides being witnessed in health, agri-business and production require a large community of researchers, scientists, entrepreneurs, teachers among others, who can exchange knowledge, create jobs, share solutions and empower the next generation.
She called upon Uganda to seize this moment to rapidly modernize the education system, leveraging digital learning to unlock transformational change at a national scale, reaching every child and young person with quality learning by connecting them to the internet
She equally thanked teachers who are delivering self-study packages to learners which are greatly appreciated by parents and students with no connectivity. She noticed that too many children in Africa, including Uganda – are not developing key skills, in part because African youth are the least digitally connected in the world, Uganda being no exception.
“We must build on what we have learned and become better prepared to deal with future risks. The significant efforts we have made so far is testament that if we work together, we can harness digital technologies to address some of the challenges in the education sector and inspire solutions for many.” She said.